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Wilson Bridge Delays (Shocker)

You're going to be incredibly amazed to learn that there will be delays around the Wilson Bridge this weekend. Tonight and tomorrow night the Capital Beltway will be closed on the Maryland side of the bridge from 11.p.m. to 8.a.m. so that workers can lift steel beams over the highway.

Drivers will be detoured around the highway and can expect delays of as much as half an hour, if all goes as it has in the past. The beams are part of a new interchange at Route 210 that is part of the overall bridge project. Additionally, the ramp from the southbound lanes of Interstate 295 to the outer loop of the Beltway will be closed from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. both days because of the construction.

This all comes a week before another traffic meltdown in the area. Next weekend is when the inner loop of the Beltway is shifted from the old span to the new one and drivers are being asked to stay away -- far, far away -- from the area for all of next weekend.

Forgetting about the traffic inconvenience for a minute, next weekend is something of a monumental moment for the region. The Wilson Bridge as we know it will cease to exist, at least for drivers. That bridge, that awful, awful bridge, has done its 45-year duty and will be a-coming down soon after cars cross it for the last time. Kinda makes you nostalgic, doesn't it? Nah, me either. But what does it make you think? What are your best/worst memories of the bridge?

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 7, 2006; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Wilson Bridge  
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Comments

While best memories have yet to be determined, worst memories come to mind quickly. I used to take the outer loop of the bridge to work in the mornings. Earlier this year, on a rainy Friday morning, just before the bridge, the drivers in front of me failed to stop in enough time, causing a four car fender bender with my car being the fourth. The bottoms of my pant legs were completely soaked by the time I got to work, as I'd stood in the rain gathering insurance information of the other drivers. The shining light of the trip over the bridge was the attractive co-worker on the other side.

Posted by: F.J.K | July 7, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Worst memories are easy. I commuted to a lousy job on the MD side for a year or so - including the snowy day of the Air Florida crash in 1982, when it took almost two hours to make the 5-mile trip back to VA.

A couple of years later, back working in Alexandria, a coworker ran out of gas halfway across coming from MD. She must have walked the rest of the way across - anyway she called me from the gas station where she got a can of gas, and I picked her up, drove across to MD, looped around from one of the exits and pulled up behind her car on the shoulder. Her driver-side mirror had been sheared off by then. We got the gas in the car and made it back across, but it was pretty scary. You think those big bridges are rock-solid until you stand still on one and feel yourself shaking from the vibrations as the cars zoom past.

I can't imagine you'll get many "best" memories, but I grew up in Old Town and so whenever we came back from a family trip up north, the bridge was the very last bit of highway that we traveled before getting home - in fact we'd usually take the very first exit on the VA side then, for the GW Parkway instead of Route 1. (That end of the bridge also passes the grade school that I went to, and the adjacent cemetery where I now have several relatives and friends.)

Posted by: Cosmo | July 7, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I can remember when the beltway in PG county was just 2 lanes in each direction and no one had to slow down, much less bumper-to-bumper, before the WW bridge because there was not that much traffic! We were living in Landover and it was before Landover Mall was built. Much of the land on either side of the beltway from 202 to the bridge was tobacco or corn fields. Them was the days!

Posted by: Historian | July 7, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I've got a best memory.

16 years in DC and I've never crossed the WW Bridge.

Guess I'm going to miss out on all the fun.

Posted by: bflorhodes | July 7, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I've only been on teh Wilson Bridge once in my nearly 10 years in the area. It was about 3 months ago and it took me 2 hours to go about 6 miles. Honest to god. And I had a screaming infant in the car who needed to eat and I had no where to pull over. Worst afternoon of my life

Good riddance!

Posted by: MD | July 7, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I love the old bridge. I recommend that everyone find a time in the next week when there is a bridge opening (check here: http://www.wilsonbridge.com/cms/cms-openings.htm ) and go through Old Town, south on Royal Road, then take a left out to the river bank. This is on the west bank just north of the bridge. Then wait. It is completely magical when the steady rumble of the bridge stops, and for a few minutes the rhythm of the river supercedes the normally dominant rhythm of the highway overhead. It doesn't last long, and soon the opportunity to experience it will be gone forever.

I also love that the drawspan is an open-steel grid. When you are on the deck you can look straight down and see the water under the bridge through the leaves of the drawspan. That's really cool. The new bridge has pavement on the deck.

Here are some other good memories:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/betts/sets/515100/

Posted by: Driven | July 7, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

p.s. I drive the bridge every workday, so I'm not immune from the traffic issues. I still love it.

Posted by: Driven | July 7, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

What is the record for the longest stall on the bridge?

The one I remember was in the heat of the summer and a truck dumped a load of tar on the beltway just off the bridge. They had people trapped on the bridge for hours in the heat-it's a wonder they didn't kill someone.

Or the jumper who made himself comfy on the edge of the bridge for 8 hours til they shot him off--ok it was a stungun not a bullet.

Truth is all of these can and will happen with a new bridge. They need to have contingency plans that work to rescue the folks in the backups.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 10, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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